Remember that quote in “It’s a Wonderful Life:”
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
Well, in the online marketing world it’s:
“Every time a mouse clicks, an SEO gets a backlink.”
And that SEO needs to know how to analyze all of those new links so that they can make sure they’re building a quality link profile.
Which is why I’m writing this post…
To show you how to run a successful and effective inbound link analysis campaign using just one simple and powerful tool: Monitor Backlinks.
Let’s get started!
How to Conduct an In-depth Inbound Link Analysis with Monitor Backlinks
The Two Types of Inbound Link Analysis
The first thing you need to know about running an inbound link analysis campaign is that it includes two main types of analysis:
- Link profile analysis (what I call the “Big Picture” view)
- Individual link analysis (what I call the “Zoomed In” view)
Both types can be performed independently of the other and still produce great results. But it’s when they’re used together that inbound link analysis becomes a powerhouse SEO strategy.
So today we’ll be looking at both types of analysis…
…starting with analyzing your link profile as a whole and then drilling down to the specifics of each backlink.
The Big Picture View: Inbound Link Analysis of Your Site’s Link Profile
First, what do I mean by “Big Picture” view?
I use the term to describe looking at your site’s entire catalog of backlinks as one whole unit.
Think about it like this:
When you order fries at your favorite fast food joint, you ask for a “large fry.” Now, that large fry contains several individual fries within it. But altogether, it’s one unit.
And so it goes with your site’s link profile (which is essentially a unit of several backlinks).
So the “Big Picture” view focuses solely on your site’s link profile as a whole and not on individual links.
By far, the easiest way to perform both types of inbound link analysis on your link profile is to use a backlink management tool like Monitor Backlinks.
If you haven’t already, you can sign up for a free trial here.
Once you log in (and add your domain), you’ll want to visit two sections:
The first one is the Overview section…
…which, like it says on the tin, gives you an overview of vital backlink-related statistics.
The second one is the Link Analysis section…
…which breaks down vital backlink information into easy-to-digest graphs and charts.
You’ll use both sections to find eight key pieces of link profile-focused data:
1. Total Number of Backlinks
Your site’s total number of backlinks can be a strong and accurate indicator of your site’s competitiveness.
(Especially when compared with your competitors’ backlink totals.)
The general gist is that the more backlinks a site has, the more likely it is to rank higher in search engines.
However, that comes with a very important caveat:
Link counts can be drastically altered by black hat (aka: unnatural or spammy) link building practices, which, as you can imagine, lower the quality of the site, not improve it.
So this is not an end-all and be-all metric, but still important.
To find your site’s total number of backlinks, go to Overview and look at the second number in the “Backlinks” box:
(I’ll explain the first number in just a second.)
So looking at the image above, we can see that this site currently has 1.5 million total backlinks.
Great numbers for outranking competitors with 500K backlinks… but not so great if the top competitors have 3 million total backlinks.
2. Total Number of Unique Referring Domains
Most SEOs agree that the number of unique referring domains is a better metric for gauging site quality than the site’s total number of backlinks.
When you think about it, it’s easy to see why…
Multiple links coming from the same domain experience a steeper drop-off in value after the first link.
Here’s an example to help illustrate the point:
Let’s say you have 10 backlinks from MonitorBacklinks.com and they’re all exactly equal in quality.
The first link you received will give you maximum possible link juice. After that, each subsequent link will drop in link juice potential, becoming weaker and less valuable to your site.
Once again, this is not an end-all and be-all metric.
Other factors like site relevance and link placement also play a large role in determining a site’s overall quality.
But your site’s total number of unique referring domains is still a very valuable metric for giving you a solid comparison of your site’s authority versus your competition.
To find your site’s total number of unique referring domains, go to Overview and look at your “Domains” box:
Notice that the number in the “Domains” box is the same as the first number in the “Backlinks” box.
There’s a good reason for this:
It’s because Monitor Backlinks shows one link (the highest quality link) per domain.
“Why,” you ask?
Because, like we just learned, multiple links from the same domain start to lose quality after the first link, causing unnecessary clutter in your Monitor Backlinks link database.
3. Total Number of Followed vs. Nofollowed Links
It’s no secret that followed links are the bread and butter of a strong link profile.
Simply put, you can have hundreds upon hundreds of backlinks from high authority sites, but if they’re all nofollow, then you won’t reap any of the link juice-related benefits.
That’s why you’ll always want your ratio of followed links to nofollowed links to be heavily skewed towards followed.
To find your site’s number of followed and nofollowed links, go to Link Analysis and review the “Followed vs Non-followed” backlink report:
4. New Inbound Links
Your number and quality of new inbound links indicate how well your current link building campaigns are performing.
For example, if you see a constant stream of new backlinks from quality sources, then it’s safe to assume that the strategies you’re using are working well.
On the other hand, if your new link generation is infrequent and/or low quality, then you can assume that there are changes that need to be made in your strategy and approach to link building.
To see your site’s most recent new inbound links, go to Overview and review the “New Links” section:
5. Link Status Changes
Link status changes reveal important updates to your backlinks’ status.
These status changes can either be positive (e.g. nofollowed to followed) or negative (e.g. followed to nofollowed).
The most important status changes to track are:
- Followed to Nofollowed
- Followed to Backlink Not Found (BNF)
- Nofollowed to Followed
If you see a change that negatively affects your link profile, reach out to the referring site to discuss the issue immediately.
To see your site’s most recent backlink status changes, go to Overview and review “Link Status Changes:”
6. TLD Distribution
Admittedly, this category is too often overlooked, but the number and location of countries with domains linking to your site matter.
Google looks at referring top-level domains (TLDs) to help determine the site’s quality.
If they see that a US-based site’s link profile is full of links from foreign language TLDs, they’ll tend to regard that site as lower quality, which, in turn, can negatively impact rankings.
So strive to maintain a higher ratio of native language country TLDs to foreign language TLDs.
To get a breakdown of your site’s TLD totals, go to Link Analysis and look at the “TLD Distribution” report:
7. Anchor Text
Anchor text diversity has never been more important in today’s post-Penguin environment.
That’s why your portfolio of anchor text should ideally include branded keywords (i.e. the name of your company or website) and a mix of anchor texts that are topic-related.
What it should not include are exact match keywords—keywords that are identical to the page’s target keyword.
To review your links’ most popular anchor text, go to Link Analysis and look at the report for “Top Anchor Text:”
8. Linked Pages
Knowing which of your pages have the most backlinks can be a good indicator of the page types that are most effective at generating backlinks.
Pay attention to the content that’s on these pages.
What are the topics? How is the content presented? How is it formatted and which types of media did you use?
Also, keep in mind what you did (if anything) to promote these pages.
Did you run a targeted link building campaign? Was it a guest post? Did you convince an influencer to share it?
Asking and answering these types of questions about your most linked-to pages can produce valuable insights into how to run your link building campaigns in the future.
To see your most linked-to pages, go to Link Analysis and look at the “Top Linked” report:
Zooming In: Inbound Link Analysis of Your Site’s Individual Backlinks
Now that you have the big picture overview, it’s time to perform a more detailed analysis of your site’s individual links.
So the next phase of inbound link analysis takes us to the Your Links module in Monitor Backlinks, which lets us review individual details about each backlink.
1. Link Quality
The first area you’ll want to focus on is each link’s overall quality.
More specifically, how favorably it will be viewed by search engines (especially Google).
To do that, you’ll look at six specific metrics in Your Links:
A. Trust Flow
Trust Flow indicates the quality of the referring site in relation to the number and reputation of links pointing to it.
The higher the Trust Flow, the higher the quality of the site.
So, generally speaking, a site with a Trust Flow of 74 will be more valuable than one with a score of 46.
B. Citation Flow
Citation Flow indicates the referring site’s level of influence in its industry based on the number and quality of links pointing back to it.
Like Trust Flow, it uses a scoring range of 0-100 (100 being the highest).
My recommendation is to use Trust Flow and Citation Flow together to help determine the overall quality of a backlink.
C. Spam Score
Spam Score indicates the potential spamminess of the referring site.
Or put another way:
The likelihood that the link will be deemed spam by Google.
Spam Score itself is a metric created by Moz that uses 17 ranking factors to help predict the probability that a site is spam or not.
The more indicators the site has, the higher the likelihood that it’s spam.
D. Moz Rank
This metric indicates the total “power” of the referring site using a site’s linking authority and overall popularity as its basis.
It uses a score range of 0-10, where 0 is the least powerful and 10 is the most powerful.
E. Domain Authority
Domain Authority gives you an indicator of the overall quality of a website—how well that specific page will rank on Google.
The higher the score, the higher a website will tend to rank, and the more link juice its links will pass on to the site they’re linking to.
The score range for Domain Authority is 0-100.
F. Page Authority
Page Authority is the same as Domain Authority except for individual web pages.
It indicates how powerful a specific page is and how well it will rank in search engines. It also uses a scoring range of 0-100.
Like with Trust and Citation Flow, Domain Authority and Page Authority work best when they’re used together to help determine the overall power of a backlink.
2. Anchor Text
The anchor text used by the page when linking to your site should be either natural or brand-specific.
You might be wondering what this means.
In short, it means that the anchor text for any given link should:
- flow naturally with the other page’s content.
- be topic-related and/or brand-specific (e.g. “Monitor Backlinks”).
- not exactly match your page’s target keyword.
If it does exactly match the page’s target keyword, you can either 1) reach out to the webmaster or site owner and request they change the anchor text, or 2) remove the link from your link profile.
3. Link Status
A link’s status indicates the current health of the backlink.
There are three areas to focus on in this category:
A. Is the link followed or nofollowed?
Followed links pass link juice on to your site, which naturally makes them more important.
Nofollowed links, for the most part, can be ignored.
B. Are the referring site and page indexed by Google?
Indexed means that the site and page have been crawled by Google and added to its database. Both should be true for each of your followed links.
If one is not, then it means that Google isn’t aware that the page or site exists—which, in turn, means that it won’t carry much weight in helping rank your site.
C. Does the page have any errors?
Errors can hinder a followed backlink’s ability to pass link juice on to your site. Some of these areas are more problematic than others.
Ones you’ll want to pay special attention to are:
- 4xx errors (like 404 Not Found)
- 5xx errors (like 500 Internal Server)
4. Link Location
Where does the link originate?
The best situation is that it originates in the same country your site is located. It may also originate in a country that speaks the same language as your own (or very similar).
But if it’s originating from a foreign country, it could be problematic because Google can view links to your site from foreign countries as unnatural link building.
5. External Link Counts
External link counts can indicate the potential spamminess of a site.
100 is the threshold.
If the page has less than 100 external links, then you’re good to go.
If the page has more than 100 external links, then it’s very possible that Google will view that link as being unnatural.
Use this metric together with the Spam Score metric to get the most “bang for your buck.”
Inbound Link Analysis Wrap-up
Inbound link analysis is an invaluable skill to learn and develop.
You need to be able to confidently look at your link profile and use it to learn how to better develop and implement your link building campaigns.
Now, follow the steps in this guide to thoroughly analyze your inbound links and develop your knowledge and understanding of links and link building strategies.
Start by signing up for a free trial of Monitor Backlinks and dive head-first into your structured inbound link analysis!